“When I was in my mid-teens, I was sexually assaulted. When I was in my mid-teens, I was taught my sole purpose on this earth was to be of service to men, to be a sexual object, not a human being.
After being assaulted, everything I thought I knew about myself crumbled. I became an object, not a person.The deep seeded shame society taught me was mine to bear crippled and silenced me. I was taught that what happened to me was my fault. I walked the hallways at school with my head tilted to the floor and my books tightly wrapped around my chest. I didn’t have to look up to know everyone was whispering to each other about me as I walked by. “Did you hear, she cuts herself, what an attention whore”, “Did you know she was drinking the other day in class? She’s crazy”. Little did they know about the pain I was feeling inside, how every day I would wake up hoping it would be my last. After my assault, I felt so alone and the only way I could release my pain was to wage a war against myself. It wasn’t long before I started to realize that physical pain could distract myself from the excruciating internal pain I was feeling, so I began to self-harm. My sense of self was so degraded and all I felt I was good for was to be a sexual object for men, so I began to drink to forget about it. It wasn’t long before my drinking got out of control. For breakfast I would mix vodka and orange juice in a travel mug, with more vodka in it than orange juice and I drank it on the bus as I was heading to school. I couldn’t face a day sober. I started to crave something stronger than alcohol, something that wouldn’t just numb me, but make me feel happy again. This led me down a road of drugs.
Then one night I hit rock bottom.
I went to a friends Halloween party. I had been drinking and doing drug throughout the day, teetering on the brink of consuming more than my body could handle. Little did my friends know, I had been thinking about ending my life that whole day. I couldn’t even handle the thought of facing another day reliving my assault, not being able to tell anyone. Around midnight, I got up and walked out of the house my friends were having a good time in. I stepped onto the street, took a deep breath, laid down on that cool pavement and prayed to god a car would come and hit me. No one would think it was suicide, they would just assume I was passed out drunk, that it was an accident. The perfect plan because I didn’t want anyone to know how much of a coward I was.
It didn’t take long before I friend noticed I was missing and found me out on that street. She ran out onto that street crying as she called her mom for help. I don’t remember much after that.
After that day my depression grew stronger, completely debilitating. Many of the people around me grew very concerned, but none of them knew what the warning signs were for sexual assault. Oddly, my debilitating depression was what ended up leading me to what saved me. My depression sucked all the life out of me; I became a human rag doll. I couldn’t muster the energy to get out of bed, so I stayed in bed day after day mindlessly watching tv. Marathons of the show Law & Order: Special Victims Unit was often on and I usually never had the energy to change the channel. As I began watching episode after episode, getting more hooked on the show by the minute, I was sucker punched with the realization from watching that show that I wasn’t the only one going through all this, and more importantly, there are people out there that will believe me, support me and understand me. After every episode I began to understand what happened to me was not my fault. I began to research sexual assault on the Internet and that lead me to an online message board for survivors (www.Pandys.org). I made an account and for a while all I did was read posts from others. Eventually I began to feel safe enough to start opening up with little steps at a time revealing who I was and what I have been going through. I was met with open arms and understanding, I began to heal.
I also starting to research Law & Order: SVU and the people behind the show. I was in awe when I began to learn who the lead actress on the show, Mariska Hargitay, was. She is a champion for survivors, a voice for the voiceless. She created a foundation whose mission is to heal, educate and empower survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse and to shed light into the darkness that surrounds these issues. Finding this foundation was the beginning of finding my joy. I can’t say enough how much this foundation changed who I am and how I understood myself. I found my purpose. I began to realize I went through what I did so I could use my experience and knowledge to help and educate others.
And once I found that purpose I became a person and I realized I was never an object.
“By helping to heal others, you can heal yourself.” – Maile Zambuto; CEO of the Joyful Heart Foundation”